Category Archives: critical management studies

Just 5 days left to claim your early-bird discount -Complexity and Management Conference 3-5th June 2022

When we talk about the theory of practice and the practice of theory, does this mean that the conference is going to be very dry and abstract? The focus of the research community which organises the annual Complexity and Management Conference is on human beings and the complex dynamics they get caught up in when they try and get things done with other people. So we are interested in what we say and do, what we think we mean when we say particular things, how trying to go on together sometimes brings about the opposite of what we intend, and how our identities are changed in the process. We are concerned with reflecting on, and becoming reflexive about everyday organisational dilemmas.

The conference begins with a gala dinner on Friday 3rd June @7pm and welcome drinks.

The mode of the whole conference is conversational. This year we are delighted to have engaged Prof Davide Nicolini of Warwick Business School to give the key note because of his insightful work on the importance of practical knowledge.

There is an opportunity for delegates to present their ideas too, on Saturday afternoon 4th June. This might be a paper or a chapter in a book, or it might be something troubling at work which presenters want to use a group as a resource to think about.

On Sunday we reflect on what we have been talking about on Saturday with the help of faculty members from the Doctor of Management programme. Thereafter we have one more round of reflection in groups and finish off with lunch.

It’s exhausting but invigorating at the same time. Hope to see you there. Book here.

Complexity and Management Conference 3-5th June 2022 – booking now.

The theory of practice and the practice of theory

When people sit together to talk about what’s going on, how they experience work, how they feel about their jobs, there may be some colleagues who complain that this is ‘just a luxury’. There is no time to sit around in a ‘talking shop’ when there is so much to do. And anyway, post-pandemic, haven’t we learnt that we can achieve just as much online?

If you are of the view that sitting around talking and thinking about how we are thinking and talking, what we find ourselves doing at work, then this year’s Complexity and Management Conference is probably not for you. As a broader research community we make an explicit assumption that one of a manager’s key tasks is to talk with their team about what they think is going on, what sense they make of it, and what it means for the group in taking the next steps together.

As a partial answer to the second point, why we are not running it online, we have organised this conference for the past two years online, and have benefitted from a broad range of participation from delegates who live too far away to come. From across time zones and sometimes great distances they have enriched the experience of paying attention to what we are doing. But it’s also the case that some qualities get lost. If we are concerned not just to talk about ideas, but to experience them, then occasionally there is no substitute for getting bodies together in a room. No more so when we choose to talk about the paradox of theory and practice. There is a practice in talking about theory, and the experience of doing so enhances learning in ways which are more than cognitive. We are moved into a different relationship with others and ourselves, a process which is attenuated online. Maybe everyone has recently experienced the difference of coming back to the workplace to work together in the same location as colleagues and has noticed the difference that encountering others makes. Having been out of practice, sometimes it may have felt overwhelming.

There is of course an environmental cost too to organising an in-person conference.

So, we have thought carefully about what we are doing and why, and we delighted to have Prof Davide Nicolini @NicoliniDavide to give us material to think about in his key note on Saturday morning 4th June. Thereafter the afternoon will be given over to anyone wanting to present their work or ideas in parallel workshops. On Sunday we respond to the previous day, and continue the discussion till lunchtime.

The conference fee includes all board and lodging. Roffey Park is set in a beautiful garden bordering a large meadow with a forest beyond. The food is of a high standard, the quality of conversation even higher and we would be delighted to see you there.

Here is the link to book. Early bird rates ends 30th April 2022.

The Doctor of Management programme

At the heart of the community of inquiry developing the perspective of complex responsive processes of relating is the Doctor of Management (DMan) programme. It has been running for more than 20 years and to date has produced 75 doctoral graduates. In the pragmatic tradition we encourage students to take their every day experience seriously, and to think sociologically about how their daily travails are informed by, and inform broader socio-economic trends. They are encouraged to take the perspective of the pilot, and at the same time the perspective of the swimmer, caught up along with everyone else amid the swirling currents of every day organisational life. If the theses graduates produce have one thing in common, it is that they are all extended exercises in reflexivity. We encourage managers and consultants to think about how they are thinking and acting with others, and to bring their assumptions about the world more the fore. In doing so they are complexifying experience, but when they do so they are still obliged so say something of relevance and interest to colleagues working in similar domains. They produce knowledge from practice for practice.

If this video makes you interested in the DMan, the conference, or anything else, then please get in touch. The book is available here: https://amzn.to/3GIZYFj . Many thanks to David O’Dwyer  for making this video.

Developing thinking, developing the practice of complexity

More publications are in press following the publication of my book last November. Nick Sarra and Karina Solsø have edited a volume on complexity and consultancy; Kiran Chauhan and Emma Crewe have edited a volume on complexity and leadership, and Karen Norman and I are editing one on complexity and the public sector. More information on their publication dates soon.

Meanwhile Davide Nicolini will be our key note speaker at this year’s conference 3-5th June entitled The Theory of Practice and the Practice of Theory. You can book for the conference here.

If this video makes you interested in the part time professional doctorate the DMan, which is run psychodynamically, the conference, or anything else, then please get in touch. The book is available here: https://amzn.to/3GIZYFj . Many thanks to David O’Dwyer of https://lnkd.in/edgdxwgA for making this video.

What do managers do from a complexity perspective?

Organising as complex responsive processes of relating

My latest book, Complexity – a key idea for business and society, arises out of a community of inquiry, where a conversation about complexity and organising which has been going on for more than 20 years.

Contributing to the conversation are my faculty colleagues, Kiran ChauhanEmma CreweKaren Norman, Nick Sarra and Karina Solsø, the students and graduates of the Doctor of Management (DMan) programme at the University of Hertfordshire, and the wider research community who attend the annual conference.

If this video makes you interested in the part time professional doctorate the DMan, which is run psychodynamically, the conference, which this year takes the theme of the theory and practice or anything else, then please get in touch.

The book is available here: https://amzn.to/3GIZYFj . Many thanks to David O’Dwyer of https://lnkd.in/edgdxwgA for making this video.

Complexity and Management conference 3-5th June 2022 – open for booking.

This year’s Complexity and Management Conference 3- 5th June: The Theory of Practice and the Practice of Theory, with key note speaker Prof Davide Nicolini is now open for booking.

As usual there is an early bird discount until April 30th.

On Friday 3rd June there is an introductory day on complex responsive processes. This is suitable for anyone wanting to discuss what’s going on for them at work and to think about it in terms of complex group dynamics, as preparation for joining the main conference starting Saturday at 9.00.

Online book launch – 6-7pm UK time Tues Nov 30th 2021

If you’d like to pop in for just an hour to hear about the new book, to meet others interested in complexity, to meet old friends and perhaps some new ones,  and to celebrate the legacy that Ralph Stacey has left us, then write to me at c.mowles@herts.ac.uk and I’ll send you a link 24 hours ahead of the launch.

Complexity and Management Symposium 20th Nov – booking now!

How might we think about the politics of waiting – who waits the longest and for what? If organisations exist in a state of frenetic standstill, where we never catch up with ourselves before embarking on the next change, does ‘slow management’ help? What is involved in the decision to wait or to act, and in what ways is waiting also a form of action? What did periods of enforced lockdown, waiting for things to open up, enable and inhibit?

Complexity and Management Symposium Nov 20th 2021 – booking now.

If you are interested in spending the day discussing, reflecting and arguing with other colleagues, then the Complexity and Management Symposium offers an opportunity to explore the nexus of waiting and time. With a mixture of large group and small in the morning, and presentations on the theme of the complexity of waiting in the afternoon, the Symposium is booking now.

The waiting is over.

Complexity – a key idea for business and society

Coming out at the end of November and turning on 7 types of complexity: thoughts about complex selves, complex action, complex knowledge, complex communication, complex authority and complex ethics, all arising from complex models. A plea for management humility along the way.

Complexity and Management Online Symposium 9.30-5.00pm Sat Nov 20th, 2021. Booking soon!

One of the great promises of an accelerated and globalised world, is that it would increase autonomy, freedom and choice. But that’s not how it has turned out, according to German sociologist Hartmut Rosa . Instead social acceleration has led to greater disorientation and fragmentation and a deficiency of resonance. We find ourselves in frenetic standstill. Nothing remains the same, but nothing essentially changes. The more rapidly changing circumstances oblige us to plan to keep up, the more we realise the plans we do make and our methods of planning are inadequate for the new situations we find ourselves in. Acceleration produces its own disruptions, traffic jams, outages and lacunae.

We are also remade in our relationship with ourselves and with the world. In rapidly changing times greater social advantage is gained by those who have fewer commitments, are more flexible in their sense of self and their convictions. The idea that we might have enduring principals, values if you like, to which we cleave, appears slightly old fashioned. Why would we stand firm for anything in a society which appears to value endless adaptability and flexibility? At the same time we encounter an increase in life events, but a hollowing out of experience, which can lead to depression  and ennui, and an attenuation of resonant relationships. This makes it harder to gain determinacy, to recognise ourselves and others in a shifting world.

Are there advantages to be gained, then by waiting, by dwelling with events to transform them into experience? Is this an argument for staying put, for standing firm, for not rushing on to an idealised future, or at least not yet, but to reflect on what’s going on and to take the time to do so.

The online Complexity and Management Symposium is a good place to do this. The working title is: The Complexity of Waiting. It’s an online event for anyone who enjoys reflecting in large groups and small on the experience of being in relation in the early 21st C.

Enjoy the sense of irony that we have been kept waiting by the university for the booking site to go up. But , it may only be a week before you can collapse the excitement of waiting into the purchase of a ticket for the event. In the meantime, if you would like to offer a workshop in the afternoon related to the theme of the Symposium, please contact me on c.mowles@herts.ac.uk .

I hope to see you there.